Bethel Island 1/23 TUFTED DUCK, Hooded Oriole
Yesterday 1/23 I birded Bethel Island with Augie Kramer, Cédric Duhalde, and Jonah Benningfield. I've long since wanted to spend an entire day birding on Bethel, and this is the closest to an entire day I've been able to do. We got a late start, rolling up around 10am, but managed to cover many parts of the island over the next 8 hours.
We started in the neighborhoods along Taylor Drive and the nearby
levee in the southwest part of the island. From there we worked
north on Bethel Island road to the Harbor drive Fields to look at
the shorebirds and waterfowl in the flooded areas. We proceeded to
the Frank's Tract Overlook and briefly checked for passerines
around the Willowest Marina. We then went to Piper Slough for
Overall, the passerine birding on the island was very solid. The
amount of standing water on the island was similar to earlier in
the year, and shorebird numbers were moderate to poor. On Frank's
Tract the numbers of Coots has gone down since my visit at the
beginning of the year, but numbers of diving ducks have increased.
The highlights were a male TUFTED DUCK originally spotted by Jonah on Frank's Tract and a female HOODED ORIOLE in the neighborhoods along Taylor rd.
Additionally, birds of local interest included:
Snow Goose-300, including 3 Blue Geese, grounded on the north
part of the island was fairly unusual on the ground on Bethel
Notes on accessing the Tufted Duck location:
The spot where the Tufted Duck was viewed from is the private
balcony of the Bethel Harbor Store (I don't recall if that's the
actual name or not) located at the east end of Harbor rd. To get
to the balcony, go up the steps heading up from the parking lot at
the east end of Harbor rd and into the store to ask if you can use
the balcony for birdwatching (I try to buy something while I'm
there as a courtesy). The storeowners have fortunately been very
welcoming of birders up until this point.
This year, during COVID, there may be some restrictions on lots of people going to look for the Tufted. It is a private location and I'm uncertain how many people the owners want to be up there at this time or even how hot they are on visitors at all right now, but its worth a shot if you're in the area. I'm not sure how many people will be interested in chasing this bird but it's probably best to communicate with the store owners as to how many birders are allowed up at a given time (it's not a huge balcony). Viewing of the Tract away from that spot is tricky and may or may not be publicly possible, but that's also worth looking into if you're birding the area.
For anyone who finds themselves on Bethel looking for any of
these birds there are also vast neighborhoods on the east side of
the island (e.g. along Willow road) that, as far as I know,
haven't been covered at all this winter and could easily host a
good Sparrow, Warbler or Blackbird.